Escudero lays down programs to combat poverty
Vice presidential candidate Francis “Chiz” Escudero has laid down his party’s plans to fight poverty, which he declared as “public enemy number one.”
“Sa ‘Gobyernong may Puso (Government with a Heart)’ ang kalaban po namin kahirapan; public enemy number one po namin ‘yan,” Escudero, running mate of presidential aspirant Grace Poe, said during ABS-CBN’s vice presidential debate Sunday.
(In “Gobyernong may Puso,” poverty is our foe; it’s our public enemy number one.)
He reiterated his party’s commitment to provide P300 billion or 10 percent of the national budget to help farmers and fisherfolk, who comprise the poorest sector in the country, and P12.4 billion to fund the education of indigents in state universities and colleges.
He said they would also allocate P1 trillion or one-third of the budget for Mindanao, which has 11 of the country’s 20 poorest provinces.
“Isang trilyon para sa Mindanao para po ang lupang pangako ay maging lupa na ng katuparan,” said Escudero.
(We will allocate P1 trillion of the budget for Mindanao so the land of promise would become a land of fulfillment.)
For the first time, the vice presidential bet also disclosed his party’s plan to allocate P100 billion for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), which will fund a new department and additional embassies to cater to OFWs’ needs, increase the legal assistance fund for migrants and pave the way for the creation of a pension fund for OFWs and the portability of their health insurance.
The proposed P100-billion OFW fund is the biggest budget for OFW services to be provided by any administration, a statement from his office said.
In this year’s national budget, the statement said, P487 million was allocated for the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration; P1.86 billion for the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and P5.2 billion for the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Foreign Policy Services, which include legal assistance to nationals.
From January to July 2015, only 750 OFWs benefited from the government’s P100-million legal assistance fund. Another 3,459 Filipinos abroad benefited from the P350-million Assistance to Nationals Fund.
“Sa mahigit-kumulang na P1.3 trilyon na pinapadala nila, yun lang ba ang kaya natin? Layunin po namin, magtatag ng hiwalay na departamento para sa OFW para pagtuunan ng pansin ang kanilang pangangailangan. Hindi lamang po sila dapat bayani sa papel, dapat sila po ay bayani rin sa gawa,” Escudero said.
(With the estimated P1.3 trillion OFW remittances, is that all we could give them in return? We aim to establish a separate department for OFWs to address their necessities. They should not only be heroes on paper but in act as well.)
Escudero said he and Poe have been proposing reduced fees and greater government assistance for OFWs, who number around 2.3 million. The total migrant population, however, is estimated at around 10 million or 10 percent of the Philippine population.
If they win in the May national elections, Escudero said they will work on the portability of government health insurance to allow overseas Filipinos to use their card from the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) even in health facilities abroad.
“Dapat magamit din nila ang PhilHealth saan mang ospital, saan mang bansa sila matagpuan kung saka-sakali na sila po ay magkakasakit. Layunin po namin, ipakita at patunayan sa ating mga OFWs, hindi niyo na kailangang pumila ng mahaba. At ipaparamdam po namin sa inyo sa Gobyernong May Puso, na bayani kayo,” he said.
(They must be able to use PhilHealth at hospitals in any country in case they get sick. We aim to show and prove to our OFWs that they do not need to endure long lines. And we will make you feel that with Gobyernong may Puso, you are indeed heroes.)
He said “Gobyernong may Puso” would also establish a pension fund for OFWs to help marginalized Filipinos.
“Sabi po nila, masyado po yata kaming magastos sa Gobyernong may Puso. Hindi po gastos ang tingin namin dito. Ito po ay investment—investment sa ating kabataan, investment sa kalusugan ng ating mga kababayan, investment sa ating mga OFWs, investment sa ating mga magsasaka,” Escudero said in his closing statement.
(Critics say that we will squander funds under Gobyernong may Puso. We do not look at it as an expenditure. This is an investment— investment for our youth, investment for our fellow countrymen’s health, investment for our OFWs and investment for our farmers.)
“Seryoso po ang mga problema natin at kailangan natin ng mga taong handa at seryoso para tugunan ang mga problema at suliraning ito,” he added.
(We are facing serious problems and we need a candidate who is ready and serious in addressing these problems and issues.)
Escudero said he is not only ready to use his experience and knowledge to fight poverty and corruption but he is also prepared to serve as the country’s next vice president. RAM
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